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2. The Human Rights Council as a political space

2.5 Political and informal groups

Political Groups

Second, States can be part of political groups. A State can be part of more than one political group and it is not necessarily linked to their regional group. Being part of a political group means generally that the State aligns itself politically with the positions of that group.

Some political groups reflect regional or, economic communities outside the Human Rights Council, for example:

  • European Union (EU)
  • African Union (AU)
  • Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
  • League of Arab States
  • Commonwealth of Nations
  • BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa
  • East Africa Community

There are also political groups that are based on other shared interests, for example:

  • Non-Aligned Movement (NAM): has 120 member states, and emerged at the time of the Cold War, aiming to bring together those states that did not consider themselves aligned to either the Eastern or Western blocs.
  • Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC): has 57 member states and seeks to safeguard and protect their interests.

Informal groups

Third, there are informal groups that typically focus on a particular set of shared interests. These groups include:

  • Like-Minded Group: Includes Russian Federation, China, Cuba and Egypt as well as India, Pakistan, South Africa and Saudi Arabia
  • Mountains Group: Includes Australia, Canada, Lichtenstein, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland
  • Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

There is no comprehensive list of all the groups that a country is a member of, so you will need to do some research to learn more about the groups that your own country is a member of.


Reflection Questions

Reflection question thought bubble

Q1. Which political and informal groups is your country a member of at the UN and within the region?

For example, Saudi Arabia is a member of:

  • League of Arab States, Arab Group, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Like-Minded Group, etc

Q2 – Which states are generally allies of your country?

Think about:

  • Other members of those groups (e.g. for Saudi Arabia: other Arab countries, other Gulf States, other Islamic countries, other countries that are often hostile to the UN human rights system)
  • States your country gives aid to or receives aid from (e.g. for Saudi Arabia: Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Niger, Mauritania, etc.)
  • States your country provides / receives other assistance to / from (e.g. for Saudi Arabia: Lebanon, etc.)
  • States your country trades with (e.g. for Saudi Arabia: United Arab Emirates, China, India, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Republic of Korea, etc.)

Q3 – Which states are critical of your country?

For example, Saudi Arabia:

  • Has close ties with many countries that would often speak out against human rights violations, which means it is often able to shield itself from criticism (for example, it has never been the subject of a resolution at the Council). Some countries have raised their voices against Saudi Arabia policies, such as Iceland and Germany.

Q4 – How might you influence how your country acts?

Using the above information:

  • Where are the spaces where your country might be influenced? Whose voices are likely to persuade your country to change how it acts?

In the next sections, we will look at the commitments and obligations of individual countries within the Council, and how these can be used to encourage them to take action.

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